Extraordinary People: David Fitzpatrick

Extraordinary People returns for a brand-new series of remarkable stories, beginning with the strange tale of David Fitzpatrick. Before the 4th of December 2005, David was a normal 25-year-old with family, friends and memories. That afternoon, he suffered one of the rarest forms of memory loss ever recorded. The condition, known as a psychogenic fugue, wiped his entire memory clean, leaving him with no identity. This film follows David as he tries to recover the life he had before and attempts to start all over again.

When David Fitzpatrick found himself standing in front of Kings College Hospital, London, he had no idea how he had got there – or who he was. The confused young man was admitted to the hospital as an ‘unknown male’ and his case was referred to the local Missing Persons Unit. Four days later, maps brought in by the police provided a breakthrough when David recognised the address of his old football coach, Mike Rook.

Worried family and friends flocked to David’s hospital room, hoping to find out what had happened. The experience was overwhelming for David and traumatic for his family, who were devastated when he failed to recognise them. His mother Jeanette recalls that her son displayed “no reaction whatsoever” when she embraced him – a gesture which David remembers as “like a stranger holding me”.

With doctors uncertain of how long it will take for his memory to return, David is embarking on a journey of discovery in the hope of filling in the blanks. While hopeful at the prospect of retrieving his memory, he is also apprehensive at the thought of uncovering what made him go into his fugue in the first place. What was it that prompted his brain to go into shutdown and wipe all his memories of family, experiences and even world events?

David begins his quest by revisiting his childhood home, but is disheartened that the trip fails to trigger any memories of his early years. And when a visit to his old football club sees David awarded the Manager’s Player award for his achievements in the previous year, he cannot remember the matches that showed off his skills.

Without his own memories, David is forced to rely on the recollections of others. “I have to accept what they say,” he explains. “There’s no proof apart from what they are telling me.” He says that he found it difficult to trust people at first, and discovered that his family and friends had conflicting recollections of who he was.

In an effort to learn more about his true self, David goes to his old school to hear about what he was like as a boy. He meets up with his old form teacher, who recalls the young David as a ‘scallywag’ and ‘likeable rogue’. After hearing stories about his schoolday antics, reading his old reports and examining photographs, David begins to feel more confident that his memories may be unlocked: this trip has emphasised to him that he existed in the past, even though he cannot remember it. “It’s given me optimism that things will come back quite quickly,” he says. “I didn’t think that before.”

However, David soon realises that the quest to uncover his past will not be straightforward. Not only does he have a six-year-old daughter he must get to know again, but he finds out that a break-up with the woman he saw as the love of his life had sent him into a spiral of self-destructive behaviour. At the time, he hit the drink hard and was even banished from friends’ houses. Was it this chaotic turn of events that pushed him into his fugue?

Now that David’s friends and acquaintances have provided him with an insight into the man he was before the fugue, he has a unique opportunity to start again. Painful though the experience has been, he has confronted his past. “I’m back at zero,” he says. “This is where my life starts.”

About the author

  • Vikki

    How can I contact David Fitzpatrick? Does anybody know?

  • e

    I would’ve wanted to know too 😉

  • Branka

    I would like to contact David…
    Thank you!

  • Anonymous

    the man without a past

  • Anonymous

    Does antone know if I can download thi movie from somewhere? I’m writing a paper about this case as my final paper for Abnormal Psychology. I would really appreciate it!

  • sarah-Jayne

    Trying to find out up dates of Davids recovery. Have too suffered mental health issues that if subjected to recurring traumas re appear.
    was very taken by the programme and wondered if it possible to contact him by e mail or possibly if he has a web address / my space or the like .

    many thanks for your assistance
    sarah -jayne

  • Anonymous

    My sister is experiencing dissociative fugues where she leaves her home, drives away, buys things and can’t remember any of it. Many other things are happening to her and her life is out of control. She is being treated for depression, panic disorder and is on a drugs that aren’t helping her. I am searching for anything and everything about DID,Dissociative Identity Disorder. There are diagnostic tests that can be given to find out if that is what’s wrong with her but doctors are hesitant to diagnose this illness.
    I am worried and scared for her, I love her so much.

  • Anonymous

    David needs to take responsibility for himself and stop blaming others for his mistakes. There is no denying that his life was a mess but it was of his own creation. His lack of relationship with his daughter and his relationship failures were of his own making and his inability to accept these facts caused his fugue to occur.

  • Anonymous

    i know david very well, he has come through so much and reguardless of these mistakes in life he is still a good person. yes he hurt people in the past but it was more out of disappointment than anything else, but now has turned his life around, a great career,daughter, girlfriend, home, and i recently hear he is starting up his own business. to do this while not remembering 24 years of his life is quite remarkable, he just gets on and does things. the glass is always half full. anyone TRYING to bring him down with stupid comments about him drinking or anything else are going to fail. bitter people! i would like to hail this man.

  • Anonymous

    I Know David Very Well ! I Think It is Stupid To Make Up Theorys About Him And Make Stupid Comments When You Dont Know The First Thing About Him, So Sort It Out You sad, Pathetic people
    Paige x

  • Anonymous

    I am just finding this article posted in 2007, over 2 years ago, and can only say that I wish David all the best. I have a dear friend who has experienced the same condition and can tell you that no one could ever imagine the type of hurt and frustration he experiences without going through the same.

    It is easy for others to judge those unfortunate enough to have become afflicted by this condition as the popular movies and TV shows only seem to glamorize or make those afflicted seem as a criminal or a person attempting to hide. But in reality nothing is further from the truth. My friend, for example, went out of their way in attempting to discover their past, good or bad.

    Often people say they wish they could just forget everything in their past and start over. They say it would be a “blessing” or an “opportunity”. In reality it is only the opposite.

    My thoughts go out to David and his family. Whether he has regained his past or not during these past years I know it will always be a struggle. But with his family and friends to provide support and while this will always be difficult he will be just fine.

  • Eric79

    David hasn’t lost any memory. He is choosing not to remember. Absent an actualy physical reason the mind always retains the ability to recall. This is simply, what in the old days, would be called malingering. The show was good, but they aren’t really helping David any by allowing him to get away with this. Interesting how he only loses certain memories. It’s also intereting how he locked his keys and wallet in his friends trunk. Gee, this was so planned, it’s ridiculous. If it was a true memory loss he’d never have done that. He has come up with perfect way to avoid responsiblity for his behaviour and is using the show to try to land a decent job or build a bridge to fame.

  • Fascinating story. I can’t imagine how terrifying that must be like for someone who can’t remember that much of their life, and I hope I never know firsthand.

  • BBC One
  • BBC Two
  • BBC Three
  • ITV1
  • ITV2
  • 4
  • E4
  • Film4
  • More4
  • Five
  • Fiver
  • Sky1